Beauty is more than skin deep, but it does start there. The skin, the largest organ of the body, renews itself every 28 days. It serves as a pressure valve for the entire body, moderates temperature, fluids and sensory perception as well as releases excess energy and stress. Our complexion is an important factor in our attractiveness.
The body’s nervous system, circulatory system, lymphatic system, and the acupuncture meridians are all affected by the condition of the skin. What can not be eliminated by the kidneys, intestines and lungs, moves to the skin. The liver also aids in the detoxification process. The long term effects of an improper diet cause a build up of fat under the skin. The skin also absorbs sunlight, and protects us from pollutants and toxins in the environment. In Oriental medicine, it is said that the surface shows the inside. Skin, essentially, is a barometer and indicator of the overall health of our organs and systems.
The skin maintains its health by receiving proper nutrition in the form of moisture, oils, various nutrients and oxygen from inside. When healthy, it appears moist, slightly shiny, resilient, is free of blemishes, and does not break or bruise easily. Healthy skin also heals very quickly from injury. When the skin gets clogged, it begins to age in an unhealthy way, as it is no longer able to receive proper nutrition. It becomes dry, then rough, develops blemishes, and eventually becomes doughy to the touch. I have observed that the skin oftentimes becomes doughy before someone receives a more serious health diagnosis. My clients are always amazed at how quickly their skin responds and improves from dietary and lifestyle changes. It’s never too late to develop a healthy relationship with your skin. You can have healthy, beautiful skin at any age.
These foods in excess, will clog the skin
-animal and dairy foods
-baked goods, and dry foods such as cookies, crackers, pretzels, and chips
-poor quality oils and fats
-excessive use of oil
-tropical, thick-skinned fruits (in temperate climates)
-iced foods and beverages
Things that further damage the skin
-excessive exposure to sun
-excessive exposure to cold and wind
-excessive use of poor quality moisturizers
Things that strengthen the skin
-all whole grains, especially brown rice, barley, farro, and millet, make the skin flexible
-all beans make the skin smooth
-sea vegetables make the skin strong and resilient
-buckwheat noodles and shoyu in broth and cooking
-light use of high-quality sesame and olive oils
-sparing use of high-quality moisturizers
-a daily body rub*
-all light to moderate, varied physical activity
*The body rub is the ultimate anti-aging technique that helps maintain and restore the youthful health of the skin.
The sun is essential to all of life. I find it interesting that even the sun is now perceived as an enemy. Before the Industrial Revolution, people not a part of the upper class were naturally exposed to the sun throughout their lives. As a result of the Industrial Revolution, we disconnected from nature’s cycles and rhythms. As people began to work through lunch, there was even less of a chance to go outside. Sunlight is essential to our health and well-being. I’d like to add some macrobiotic perspective to sunlight.
There are many ways that the sun is beneficial. For example, the sun rises and evaporates dew which cleans and refreshes all of life; it renews and uplifts the energy both in nature and ourselves. Just from stepping outside on a sunny day, we experience this. There are few dietary sources of vitamin D in a plant-based diet, so our main source of vitamin D is the sun. Vitamin D is essential to our overall health, which includes calcium absorption, nerve and muscle function, reduction of inflammation, and healthy immune response. If we are outside in short sleeves for just 10-20 minutes everyday, between the hours of 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. between the months of May and October, we naturally receive our yearly supply of Vitamin D.
Is the sun the primary cause of skin cancer and melanoma? In my counseling practice, the skin is one of the most important barometers of the condition of someone’s overall health. Specific dietary changes from World War II coincided with a dramatic increase in skin cancers and melanoma, even though people were spending less time in the sun. These changes include the increase in consumption of poultry, tuna and other fatty fish, dairy, eggs, processed sugars (including high fructose corn syrup), tropical and citrus fruits, and poor quality and hydrogenated oils. Dietary changes that damage and weaken the skin in turn change how we are affected by exposure to sunlight. Unhealthy skin is much more easily damaged by exposure to the sun.
The effects of exposure to the sun are very different depending on whether we are in a vertical or horizontal position. A vertical position (standing or sitting upright) activates our metabolism and allows us to use the energy of the sun in the most healthy and beneficial way. When we are in a horizontal position, as in sunbathing, we deactivate our metabolism. Falling asleep in the sun feels similarly to having an overly rich meal. Too much sunbathing is like eating too much rich food. It can also weaken immunity, causing the skin to dry out and age prematurely. Unhealthy skin, and over-exposure to the sun may aid in the development of skin cancer and melanoma.
The skin is very efficient at absorbing anything applied to it, so it is equally important to be aware of the quality of sunscreens and cosmetics. Use high-quality, natural products. If you’re going to be out in the sun for a prolonged period, it is best to wear a hat and cover up. Furthermore, it is best to slowly build up a tolerance to sunlight and reduce the use of sunscreen.
I hope that you enjoy the sunlight this summer, but please use common sense and discretion about how much you sunbathe. In a following entry, I will write about healthy skin, and how to work create it.
I have just returned from a seminar in Portugal called “Awakening Qi” with my long time friends and associates, Bill Tara and Chico Varatojo. The seminar focused on how we use and work with qi in our daily life and professional healing practices.
I came upon this interesting website that shows how we can transition to natural, gentle, and inexhaustible energy sources that can help restore and repair Nature’s qi. Check it out.
What do you think?
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It has been my observation that recently more and more vegans have been having bone problems including hip fractures and replacements. In the past, hip fractures were considered to be a sign of old age and impending death. This may not the case today, but I do believe that the food choices common to much of the vegan practice are creating an overly acidic condition which may cause calcium loss. Calcium is available in all plant-based foods, especially greens and beans. Proper food preparation aids in the absorption and utilization of calcium, minerals, and other nutrients.
Current vegan recommendations advise avoiding all added salt, sugar, and oil. In addition, nightshades and other acidifying vegetables are highly recommended. Furthermore, smoothies are often used to replace some meals altogether. It is my concern that this may not be a healthy direction for a sustained vegan practice. All of the world’s long-standing civilizations were plant-based; their mainstays were grains, beans, vegetables, and fruits. They also used salt and oil in their food preparations (this includes the people of Blue Zones). It seems it is safer and healthier to base our general recommendations on what has already worked for many hundreds, or even thousands of years.
There’s no doubt that the excessive use of salt and oil is unhealthy, especially when these are poor quality. It might be advisable to take a softer approach by recommending a minimal use of natural sea salt and high quality sesame and/or olive oil. Salt makes food tastier, more enjoyable, and satisfying. High-quality sea salt, used in cooking, aids in carbohydrate digestion and absorption in the small intestine. Oil, used in cooking, aids in the absorption of minerals and fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K). It also adds to the taste and enjoyment of foods cooked in oil.
I am concerned that current vegan recommendations are an overreaction to a meat and dairy-based diet. The world is watching us; let’s make sure we get it right. I’d like to add more detailed information about specific recommendations and food choices in future blogs. Stay tuned.
Farmer’s markets provide many benefits for the health of individuals and communities. Farmer’s markets help us to learn about and reconnect with food and nature. Philadelphia has a strong network of farmer’s markets throughout the week. No matter the day, people can connect with the local food scene as well as enjoy the health benefits of eating locally and seasonally.
-Buying food at farmer’s markets encourages us to go home and cook.
-We become more practical and creative with our cooking.
-We discover foods we are naturally drawn to as well new foods we may have never encountered.
-The density and uniqueness of flavors as well as the depth of color of produce from farmer’s markets is far beyond the range of flavors offered by conventional produce.
-We reawaken to the seasonality of certain foods. This allows us to fully enjoy and appreciate foods as they become available.
-They allow us to find our natural sense of taste for foods.
-We receive practical education about the variety of available foods from a particular season and region.
-They are healthy social gathering places.
– Going to the market is an event to look forward to as a new ritual.
-We connect with the people who grow our food.
The proliferation of farmer’s markets is an indicator of people’s desire to reconnect with nature and health. To me, it is a sign that people are curious, excited, and motivated with building an economy that is based on health. And I am pretty sure that once you start visiting your local farmer’s market, it will be hard to stay away.
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Intelligence is defined as an ability to acquire and apply knowledge or skills. By that definition, I would say that macrobiotics is the most intelligent diet and lifestyle available today. As we practice, we develop a deeper connection to ourselves, nature, and all of life. We begin to experience how our actions affect the planet and those around us.
Ultimately, our life is produced by the interaction of nature between the earth and the celestial world. Our dietary and lifestyle practices help us to establish a deep connection with nature. Nature always inspires a sense of wonder, marvel, mystery, and inspiration. Nature is resourceful and resilient and constantly adapting to change. It is through aligning with nature that true intelligence and creativity within ourselves reawakens.
-Food connects us to nature. Plant-based foods create a direct connection. Eating local and indigenous foods creates and maintains a strong connection to our local environment, to climatic, and seasonal change.
– We acknowledge our connection to all of life and express gratitude for everything that has brought the food to us. Each meal reminds us of the abundance that nature provides.
We appreciate and acknowledge the amazing contributions and discoveries of past people, their experiences, and resulting traditions. These traditions are the strongest guides to help us create a sustainable, creative, and abundant future.
-The practice becomes unique to each individual and reawakens our natural taste and appetite. In turn, we can learn how to make the best choices for our life and health.
-Nature is unique; it is endlessly growing, changing, and adapting. Connecting with nature helps us to express and develop our own uniqueness.
-Encouraging local production allows us to reawaken our experience of the changing seasons.
-It is a never ending learning process that helps develop our ability to think independently and figure things out.
-It becomes a model for scientific inquiry and discovery; science consistently follows and validates macrobiotic dietary and lifestyle practices.
-Our families and communities are strengthened through encouraging us to reconnect and share during mealtimes.
-Encourages us to return to an orderly lifestyle practice, and express an appreciation for the changing seasons and traditions.
-It becomes the ultimate anti-aging diet and lifestyle practice by providing the most abundant and healthy nourishment; people consistently look and feel younger and think more clearly as time passes.
-We have another nervous system in our gut. Healthy eating and good nutrition affects healthy thinking and creativity.
-Taking responsibility for our dietary and lifestyle practice helps us realize a greater sense of control for our own life.
Practical steps in our “>daily life helps us develop natural ways and methods to express our creativity. It is no accident to me that intelligent and creatives minds from the past such as Einstein, DaVinci, Emerson, and Ben Franklin had similar diet and lifestyle practices. Does your own experience validate these points?
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We can regulate our metabolism through foods choices, mealtimes, and daily lifestyle practices. I define metabolism as the ability to digest and absorb the nutrients in food, and the ability to eliminate the excess. Excess takes the form of what we don’t use as well as accumulated toxins. The key to a healthy metabolism is the right foods at the right times.
Our digestion is not on call 24 hours a day; our body is most ready to receive nourishment at certain times. Eating at the proper times activates our metabolism, whereas eating between these times or skipping meals deactivates it. A person with a poor diet who sits down to eat at regular times will have better health than someone with a poor diet and poor eating habits.
Starting breakfast by 8:30 a.m., lunch between 11 and 1 p.m., and dinner between 5 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. are the best times of day for our meals. Lunch is the most important meal of the day to be consistent with as it has the greatest ability to regulate our metabolism
-Sit down to eat without doing other things
-Start meals at the proper times and don’t skip meals
-Eat slowly, and chew food thoroughly
-Stop eating before full
-Sleep and rise early–the earlier you eat, the more active your metabolism will be
-Do not eat at least three hours before going to sleep
-Have daily, life related activity, especially cleaning and walking outside everyday
-Try to eat with other people
-Have a good belly laugh every day
-Do things for other people
4 Comments | Tags: Adjusting Your Diet
Traditional diets have a variety of foods and beverages that are naturally refreshing and healthy. Almost all healthy diets have a high moisture content from cooked grains and beans, vegetables, soups, fruits, and fermented foods. The modern diet with staples such as meat, poultry, eggs, cheese, and baked/fried foods, is a very dry diet that creates cravings for unhealthy refreshing foods such as soda and ice cream. This is a practical example of how healthy foods create cravings for healthy beverages and vice versa.
Having a diet with a high moisture content reduces the need to drink as often or excessively. The most important liquid is in food. When we eat foods with a high moisture content, our bodies can utilize the fluids in these foods more efficiently. Healthy foods want to be chewed more as well, and become naturally sweet and refreshing as we chew. Drinking to quench thirst, however, is a natural supplement to refreshing foods. Mild beverages, such as herbal and grain teas or room temperature/chilled water are thirst quenching.
I see “refreshing” as one of the most important nutrients; it is something everyone craves. Refreshing helps us to naturally feel mentally and emotionally revitalized. These foods naturally reduce stress because they gently disperse heat and energy.
-boiled grains, especially when chewed
-steamed greens with lemon
-any type of juicy lettuce, cucumbers, radishes, carrots, or celery
-watermelon, and other juicy fruits like strawberries, peaches and plums
-sauerkraut and mild vinegars (cider vinegars, brown rice vinegars)
-sweet, fruity olives
-mints and cooling herbs, such as peppermint, basil, and parsley
-chilled, roasted barley tea (though bitter) is a very thirst quenching beverage
What are some of your favorite refreshing foods and beverages?
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Natural pickling and fermentation are the most unique, traditional forms of food preservation that enhances the quality of the foods. Fermentation is an external, predigestion process that converts complex nutrients to simpler ones. Common fermented foods and beverages include sourdough, vinegar, and wine. Pickling is a type of controlled fermentation using salt. Examples of pickled products are miso, sauerkraut, and olives.
Modern preservation techniques stop the changes in foods. In essence, these foods become sterile. Natural pickling and fermentation facilitates continuous, ongoing transformation and enhancement of certain aspects of foods. For example, pressed apples (apple cider), if unpasteurized, over time ferments into hard apple cider, an alcoholic beverage. If left to further ferment, hard apple cider turns into apple cider vinegar. Each product is unique, and in some ways, mimics the aging process in human beings. Although the fresh, bright aspects may decline as we lose youth, our deeper, essential qualities become enhanced as we age.
-For healthy digestion, we need both prebiotics and probiotics. Prebiotics are the fibers in whole grains, beans, vegetables, and fruits.
-Pickled and fermented foods, commonly now referred to as sources of probiotics, when combined with prebiotics, help create the healthiest environment for gut microbes to flourish.
-We have a second nervous system called the enteric nervous system in our gut. It is composed of the same types of cells that make up our central nervous system. Pickled and fermented foods bolster and support the connection between the cells that are shared between these two nervous systems.
-We also have two digestive systems. Mental, emotional, and digestive health are interrelated and affected by the foods we eat. Our digestive system processes liquids whereas the brain and nervous system process thoughts, ideas, and vibrations.
-Naturally pickled and fermented foods support the development of gut microbes which prevents unhealthy microbes from developing and flourishing.
-Pickled and fermented foods help develop a natural, efficient immune response, and also suppresses inflammatory response often associated with allergies, cardiovascular disease, and cancer.
-Pickled and fermented foods best express the qualities of a particular climate. Wine, beer, and miso are common examples of how microclimates affect the quality of a fermented product. If we want to assimilate to another environment, eating or drinking native, naturally pickled and fermented foods help us adapt more easily to that climate.
-The basis of a healthy plant-based diet are grains, beans, vegetables and fruits. The most important probiotics for this way of eating are miso (grain and bean), sauerkraut (vegetable), and umeboshi plum (fruit).
-Pickled and fermented foods aid the digestive process and our ability to absorb and utilize nutrients.
-It is the interaction of foods that provides the greatest benefit. Pickled and fermented foods should be eaten in combination with other foods during a meal. Having miso soup, sauerkraut or a glass of wine during a meal provides the fullest benefit.
Kimberly, a nutritional therapy student in the UK, recently posted on her blog “The Little Plantation” about miso soup and her experience with macrobiotics. I wish to thank her for encouraging people to read “The Complete Macrobiotic Diet.” I’d also like to compliment her for recognizing that our style of macrobiotic practice is an orderly approach to life that connects us with our environment and brings us to better overall health.
It is clear that modern society does not prioritize health. When we begin macrobiotic practice, it takes effort to create an orderly, daily schedule and to carve out time for meals. However, over time, these health-supporting habits become second nature. The way in which we practice macrobiotics influences and determines our overall health. Because health is a direction, and not a fixed state, any efforts we make to improve our dietary and lifestyle practice moves us in the direction of health.
When I began my practice, I also thought that macrobiotics was based on a traditional Japanese diet. However, over time I began to realize this way of eating and living was common to the world’s long standing civilizations. With few exceptions, traditional diets from our ancestors around the world were based around a variety of grains, beans, vegetables, soups, pickled and fermented foods, seeds, nuts, and fruits. Not only that, but it is also common that our ancestors had lifestyles that aligned with nature’s orderly cycles.
Each civilization has made significant contributions that have become a part of our personal practice. For example, we eat a variety of whole grains and their products from temperate climatic zones. Not only do we eat brown rice, we also include pasta, polenta, unyeasted sourdough bread, and oatmeal. We tried to illustrate the global influence in our practice in the recipe section of “The Complete Macrobiotic Diet,” which serves as a reference point for those interested in integrating global cuisines. The future of modern macrobiotic practice is in embracing the contributions of these cuisines, which includes the traditional Japanese diet from which macrobiotics was originally based.
Thanks Kimberly for sharing with your readership what you have been learning and for helping to dispel some of the misconceptions about modern macrobiotic practice. As time goes on, macrobiotic, vegetarian, and vegan practices will align more closely as we focus more on planning our meals around grains, beans, and vegetables.